Richard Saul Wurman delighted me when he spoke at the SenseMaker Dialogs last Tuesday in New York City. I remember picking up his book, Information Anxiety, for the first time in the early 90′s, a terrified and confident young man, and loving every little bit of it, the provocative micromanifestos, the frequent sidebars, the anecdotes, the impatience with the dreck that gets in the way of understanding. Turns out he speaks the same way he writes–stories, sidebars, provocation, improvisation. Any good improviser knows that you’ve got to know structure to be good. And nobody loves exploring and applying structure like Wurman.
Below are a few details from illustrated notes I created as he spoke.
At one point Wurman railed at one of the audience members to stop taking notes. “Listen,” he cajoled, and then launched into an anecdote about how he managed to take way beyond a normal course load as an undergraduate by forcing himself not to take notes—just to listen and open himself to understanding. Of course, I didn’t take his advice! But I get what he’s saying . Take a breath. Put down the pen. Listen. I am actually doing this more often lately. Sometimes notetaking gets in between me and understanding.
I loved his fable of a person sitting by a fire, progressing to groups of people around fires, connected by paths, evolving to what today is a city interlaced with roads. Poetic.
If it’s hard it may be interesting. Comfort is the enemy, simultaneous terror and confidence are your friends. He poked some fun at a guidebook publisher, who makes a lot of money but doesn’t push the envelope of what guide book could be.
You could hear his delight in playing with information, approaching it in different ways, going deeper and deeper, like peeling layers in a neverending onion.
Wurman ended up by emphasizing the power of asking a good question. And maybe that is the beginning of the end of information anxiety. When you have a good question, you can start the hunt for the right information, connected in a way that makes sense, to create understanding.
Had a fantastic experience at the PhillyChi Design Slam. Here are a few photos and short video clips.
Here is how the slam was described before the event:
Contestants will participate in a fast-paced race to create the best design solution to a "made-up" real-world problem. Awards will be given to the victors
"During the meeting, participants will be teamed and introduced to a full-fledged hypothetical project, including appropriate client-side deliverables. They'll then have an opportunity to interview key players on the client's team. The session will conclude with proposal presentations from each of the groups to the "clients" and the assembled audience.
Then the "clients" team will choose a winner. Members of the winning team will receive a plethora of praise from your peers and an award.
Was put on a team with several other folks, only one of whom I already knew–Ruth Kalinka. The hypothetical project was to create a new strategy for a general retailer "Archer Inc." who competed with Target at the high end and Wal-Mart at the low end. They wanted to build a bunch of new locations that would have higher profit margins than their existing stores. They also wanted to make inroads into two distinct market segments, "Eco-Fashionista" Moms and "Sportscenter" men. They also wanted to lower their costs while going in a greener direction.
After hearing the brief, we had 45 minutes to come up with a presentation. We had no trouble coming up with ideas, but filtering them and synthesizing them was more of challenge. That did not stop us from trying though! We had very diverse group–from mechanical engineer, to information architects, to visual designers, to a graphic facilitator. I pulled out all the stops giving a musical intro when it was our turn to present. We took turns presenting different pieces of our proposal, but unfortunately ran out of time before everything was presented.
Todd Warfel and Kelani Nichole's group gave what I felt like was the most coherent and businesslike sounding proposal, and indeed their team won. I was told over beers later that our group came a close 2nd.
The main thing is it was fun, challenging, and a great way to stretch and meet new people.
Special Bonus: One of the stakeholders in the fictitious company played the part of founding family member, Jake, who had completely different ideas from the company's management team. He went from group to group throwing wrenches in everyone's ideas. I loved this detail.
Thanks to PhillyChi for producing the event and Messagefirst forÂ hosting it and all the participants and specators. Great stuff.
When a technology startup needed some help clarifying the their pitch to VCs, they asked me to help. Only I was in a different city. So we did a web conference and we discussed their product, value proposition, and the profile of the VCs they would be pitching. As we talked, I provided real time visualization via a shared virtual whiteboard.
These are sketches-not finished visuals. The point of these is to make sense and provide insight, not to look polished.
They then turned around and used those sketches to create finished visuals to incorporate in their presentation deck. The visualization session also helped them clarify what they had to offer and how to communicate that value. This kind of back and forth conversation, facilitated by real time visualization, is what the people at Humantific call visual sensemaking.
I love that term, visual sensemaking. When you can make sense of something, that’s the first step to insight and informed action. There is nothing I like more than helping clients make sense of complex information and use it to take productive steps forward.
I have been a fan of Brandy Agerbeck's work for the last couple of years. In this video, she explains how she uses graphic recording as part of a facilitated event. In the video, Agerbeck explains two benefits of graphic facilitation: better thinking and better communication.
She works in an iconic, colorful, playful style that is as distinctive (and awesome) as she is. Behind the playful style is a discerning and expert graphic facilitator.
The video above has a great example of a company using a visual comparison to make the case that they can serve you better than their competitor. In this case it’s Verizon vs. AT&T. Visual comparisons are a powerful way to market your service, product, or idea.
In his book, Back of the Napkin, Dan Roam points out another great example of a company using a visual comparison to its advantage. At the inception of Southwest Airlines, the founder drew a picture of its intended routes, a simple triangle comprised of Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. Compared to the sprawling route maps of its competitors, it was easy to make the case that Southwest would have a solid advantage in the air traffic between those Texas cities by just focusing on them instead of routing travelers between those cities to far away hubs. This comparison helped them secure funding to make the airline a reality.
Can you come up with a visual comparison that helps you show your advantages over your competitors? If you can, then you can make it work for you. If you can’t, then you probably need to rethink your product.
(Video of the Graphic Recording From VizThink Philadelphia Show and Tell).
We had an amazing turnout at VizThink Philadelphia Show and Tell. Particiapants included the web team from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, Medard Gabel of Big Picture Small World, Erin Murphy from UPenn's Wharton School of Business Alfred P. West Jr. Learning Lab, and many other designers, writers, illustrators, entrepreneurs, technologists, and researchers. Each presented for about 3 minutes, while I graphically recorded their talks. In the video above I show parts of the graphic recording, which will give you a taste of the range of fields represented.
And we also snacked on some VizThink Philly flowchart cookies.
Thanks as always to Erin Murphy of the UPenn Wharton School of Business Alfred P. West Jr. Learning center for hosting the event. Tip of the hat to Julia Pellicciaro, Bianca Cevoli (who couldn't make this event, but was there at the inception), help plan the event, and Julia did a great job keeping the presentations flowing. And biggest thanks of all to all the attendees who came out in the midst of their jam-packed holiday season to share with other people interested in using visual thinking to make their work and lives better. Here's to a splendid 2010!
Ultimate means final.
And what is more final than death? How do we come to grips with death? What is our interface with death? One common interface with the ultimate is the tombstone. So this slideshow could be called "New Interfaces for Tombstones," but I liked the sound of "The Ultimate Interface," so that's what I went with.
I created this slide show to present it at the 30th anniversary of the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University. ITP is one of the worlds' premiere interface design programs, so I thought that community would appreciate this slide show.
Now with the advent of the web, people are thinking about how to people connect with the memory of those who have left us through that medium. A great example: Chris Barlett's Philadelphia Gay History Wiki. Some of the most visited posts on my jonnygoldstein.com blog are obituaries I have written for friends of mine who have died. It's a new era, with new ways of grappling with death, but the fact of our finite lives is as present as ever.
Now, where is that whiskey spigot?*
*Please check slideshow for this to make sense