When working with a new team or doing brainstorming for the first time with a new client sometimes it helps to jumpstart the creative process by tacking up a wall of inspiration. Especially when designing (or redesigning) new interfaces. There is so much to pull from today in regards to messaging, contextual help, interactions and so forth. This makes sitting down with a team and sketching so much easier because everyone has already had a chance to talk about ideas. It also helps when discussing the complexities of different types of implementations. If the project is in a rush as it almost always is you can save time by looking at existing examples of similar types of apps. The inspiration also acts as a point of reference useful in future conversations.
The inspiration board above is on big brown paper so it can be mobile. The yellow sticky notes indicate specific things that people on the team like and want to draw from. Try it!

When working with a new team or doing brainstorming for the first time with a new client sometimes it helps to jumpstart the creative process by tacking up a wall of inspiration. Especially when designing (or redesigning) new interfaces. There is so much to pull from today in regards to messaging, contextual help, interactions and so forth. This makes sitting down with a team and sketching so much easier because everyone has already had a chance to talk about ideas. It also helps when discussing the complexities of different types of implementations. If the project is in a rush as it almost always is you can save time by looking at existing examples of similar types of apps. The inspiration also acts as a point of reference useful in future conversations.

The inspiration board above is on big brown paper so it can be mobile. The yellow sticky notes indicate specific things that people on the team like and want to draw from. Try it!

Some thoughts from yours truly about making design and technology decisions based on what investors want, instead of customers.

We don’t all work in a company or have access to a team of people that can do user testing or research for things we’re building, but that’s OK because you don’t need that to do great user testing… [Read More]

How I Use Adobe Ideas: http://jesseddy.com/blog/2011/12/how-i-use-adobe-ideas/

Why I dislike the title “CEO.”

I hate the title CEO - in certain contexts that is. What do you think of when you hear the title “CEO?” I think of this:

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Older, white guy - who probably has a cushy job getting paid lots of money and doesn’t really get his hands dirty. Is this a huge generalization? Maybe, but maybe not. Just Google “CEO” and look at the image results.

Everyone is a CEO.
If you work in tech, you meet people all the time that are CEO’s of something. Granted many of these people are running real businesses and some of them have a “side project” where they’ve deemed themselves the CEO on their business card but whatever the case may be, the title CEO feels very out of place to me in the context of start-ups. It’s not that start-ups don’t need people working in this type of position, it’s just that it feels wrong using titles like this in this new, modern and innovative environment that is the start-up community. 

The CEO Environment
To me, the title CEO makes me think of an environment where things move slow, there’s not much innovation, there’s a clear delineation of management, tiers of hierarchy and if you’re on the bottom of that hierarchy it’s hard to even talk to the people on the top. 

The Start-Up Environment
The start-up community makes me thing of an environment where things move quickly, everybody works together towards one common goal, everybody gets their hands dirty and people wear many hats.

If this is really the case, why do we still call ourselves by these titles? I think it’s time to toss these titles out the window. It’s not time for us to reclaim the these titles - it’s time for us to start looking at other alternative names. Bryan Zmijewski, founder of Zurb and two other businesses calls himself “Chief Instigator.” Sure, this may not be appropriate for EVERY business, but you get the picture.

Crista and I faced this issue when we had to figure out what to call ourselves when we launched our ice cream company. We had to decide what our titles were for piles of paperwork we had to fill out and also for things like business cards. We briefly talked about who would be the CEO and who would be the COO but the reality is, we both do a lot of everything. Not only that but those titles felt so wrong for us, even if our company was a real business and generating revenue. For now we call ourselves “Co-Founders” which also feels a bit out of place since technology start-ups in a way own this title. Down the road we will probably invent our own titles like “Chief Ice Creamologist” or something, but even that begs the question of who’s the Chief?

Make Your Clients Sketch

I recently bought a sketchbook for my client and also engineer that I’m working with. I said: “sketch something everyday.” This is a tall request but something I think everybody should get into the habit of doing, you don’t need to be a designer. You can be a CEO, you can be the janitor of that company, you can also be the designer. Good ideas can come from everywhere and visual thinking is a great way to convey ideas quickly.

Read the entire post (I’m taking a WP blog for a test drive)

Make Your Clients Sketch

I recently bought a sketchbook for my client and also engineer that I’m working with. I said: “sketch something everyday.” This is a tall request but something I think everybody should get into the habit of doing, you don’t need to be a designer. You can be a CEO, you can be the janitor of that company, you can also be the designer. Good ideas can come from everywhere and visual thinking is a great way to convey ideas quickly.

Read the entire post (I’m taking a WP blog for a test drive)

Onward & Upward

2010 was a fantastic year. So many great things happened involving so many good people. I launched my first public facing app, http://tweat.it in May with my friend Joel. In the same month, Crista and I debuted some of our ice cream flavors at the Brooklyn Lyceum Fair to a great public reception thereby kicking off what has turned into a new and exciting ice cream start up venture for both of us. We recently completed Ice Cream University and Crista quit her job to fully focus on the business. We are up against some very big challenges but are going to do our best to find a way to bring our ice cream to the public. We will need to raise some funding so be on the lookout for a future Kickstarter project.

I’ve had a very active year on Tumblr making a conscious effort to gear my content more towards the user experience and design crowd. One of my new favorite tags being “design tidbits.” This year has also been very productive in the freelance realm. I’ve had a chance to do (and continue to do) some great work and form great relationships for amazing clients like Postling and Scoop Street.

When I look back on 2010 and think about all the great things that have transpired I can only wonder what other good things could happen if only I had more time. Also when I look back, I can point very clearly to the things that have brought me the most satisfaction and fulfillment. For these reasons I am happy to report that I am leaving my full-time job and as of this Monday, January 31st I will be an independent User Experience Consultant. I will be starting an exciting new project and for the first time working with a woman founder. I am even more excited to report that we’ll be working out of the newly launched General Assembly space in Union Square. General Assembly is full of creative technology and design minded people not to mention it’s a beautiful and well thought out workspace.

I want to send a big shout out to all the people that have made this year wonderful, you know who you are! 

How excited am I about 2011? About this excited:

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Designers Are Never Happy

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This is a topic that has reared its ugly head quite a few times in my career and a phrase that I’ve heard spoken more than once. Some designers get into situations at some point in their career where their skills are overlooked or undermined or worse, where design is an afterthought thought left to whoever has design tools at their disposal. Sometimes it’s just an organizational fault and the design process is separated from other parts of the organization. Designers are a creative bunch, but there’s much more behind the scenes that drives us and makes us do what we do. This is an attempt to outline some of those things:

DISCOVERY
Design allows us to always be uncovering and learning new things all the time. As designers we must discover in order to create. This process can take shape in many ways but it’s arguably the most important - and for some - rewarding part of the process. Everything we discover plays into how we problem solve, how we strategize and eventually how we put all the pieces together.

PROBLEM SOLVING
We are by default and for reasons that are maybe more innate than we realize, problem solvers. We investigate, we ask questions, we challenge existing paradigms, we break the rules. Why? Because we strive to do something innovative, something new and maybe unexpected. We want to know the ins and outs of why something works or doesn’t work. We tinker, pull things apart and put them back together. We have tools that help us produce designs, but the problem solving aspect of design is what helps us figure out what the right design decisions are and it’s the foundation of what we do.

COMMUNICATION
If design does one thing well, it communicates. It doesn’t just communicate, but it communicates clearly, concisely and creatively. Throughout discovery and problem solving a voice and tone start to unravel into a style of messaging that impacts how we talk about and present whatever it is that we’re designing. We get to see a personality unfold and develop into something real, but we also get to shape that personality and mold it into what feels like a living, breathing thing.

THE BIG PICTURE
Design is a means to and end. Maybe we’re designing a piece of software, a Website or a postcard. Whatever it may be, the piece of work produced has a purpose, an intent of some sort. All of the work and digging that happens before we sit down and create pixel perfect screens plays into how the big picture and how we design for the intent. For example let’s say I’m designing an expense tracking system. In simple terms users needs an application to track expenses. However, if we look at the big picture we’ll probably discover that different users have much different requirements, all of which need to be accounted for in one neat little interface.


In Conclusion…

When you take these things out of the equation or you take the designer out of the equation design is really just about pretty pictures. Luckily over the past few years, a lot of organizations have become more educated on the topic of design and how to properly implement it in an organization. There are various different ways to do it right. Acknowledging flaws in the system is ok and a good first step towards making change. Fostering a good environment for design is always a challenge but thankfully is also something that can morph and change over time. Don’t be afraid to make change and be a pioneer in your company. It just takes one person to start a revolution.

I started using Balsamiq for the first time yesterday and I have to say I’m really impressed. I will admit, I was very hesitant at first. I’m a huge fan of Omnigraffle, which I use almost everyday and it was hard for me to justify using another tool that basically does the same thing. What I found out though was that Balsamiq doesn’t do the same thing.What I really love about Balsamiq is - it’s very, very difficult to get carried away with going into great detail. It’s a little bit like a cross between a sketch and a high-fidelity wireframe. Like most interaction designers I find myself getting very caught up in the fine details when trying to convey a concept in a wireframe even if I am aware of the fact that I shouldn’t be getting caught up in the details. Balsamiq actually prohibits this from happening because of the bare bones nature of the software, its simplicity and lack of features.I’ve stepped into a project for only a few days to consult on how to organize - at a high level - a software application with tons of data. I started using it at the advisement of one of the developers on the team. They have been using it to quickly prototype concepts to show to client stakeholders and they wanted to be able to work with the assets I created after I left the project. Using Balsamiq I created a handful of wireframes in a very short amount of time that addressed a lot of major issues.
While I’ll also still use Omnigraffle, Balsamiq is great for those who are just getting into designing wireframes and really, really great for quickly prototyping concepts and ideas.
Two thumbs up!

I started using Balsamiq for the first time yesterday and I have to say I’m really impressed. I will admit, I was very hesitant at first. I’m a huge fan of Omnigraffle, which I use almost everyday and it was hard for me to justify using another tool that basically does the same thing. What I found out though was that Balsamiq doesn’t do the same thing.

What I really love about Balsamiq is - it’s very, very difficult to get carried away with going into great detail. It’s a little bit like a cross between a sketch and a high-fidelity wireframe. Like most interaction designers I find myself getting very caught up in the fine details when trying to convey a concept in a wireframe even if I am aware of the fact that I shouldn’t be getting caught up in the details. Balsamiq actually prohibits this from happening because of the bare bones nature of the software, its simplicity and lack of features.

I’ve stepped into a project for only a few days to consult on how to organize - at a high level - a software application with tons of data. I started using it at the advisement of one of the developers on the team. They have been using it to quickly prototype concepts to show to client stakeholders and they wanted to be able to work with the assets I created after I left the project. Using Balsamiq I created a handful of wireframes in a very short amount of time that addressed a lot of major issues.

While I’ll also still use Omnigraffle, Balsamiq is great for those who are just getting into designing wireframes and really, really great for quickly prototyping concepts and ideas.

Two thumbs up!