September 16, 2013
How To be Creative
Paul Trani was the opening speaker at Reasons to be Creative 2013, delivering the Monday keynote. His talk dealt with the things we can do to be more creative, such as, having friends, having an enemy or living in creative city. His most popular suggestion though was drinking, as apparently an experiment showed that “people who got moderately drunk did better on creativity tests”. Which I guess means that a mini-bar should be installed at every designer’s desk; not sure how our livers will handle all that creativity though.
He used his talk to introduce the latest tools in Adobe’s Creative Cloud software and Adobe’s first forays into hardware development: Mighty and Napoleon. Mighty is a pressure sensitive pen for use with touch screen devices, Napoleon is an accompanying ruler. Both use Bluetooth to connect to the device. As neither tool has been released we didn’t get to see Paul using them, but in the video he showed they looked very impressive. They’re not in direct competition with the Wacom tablet that may be on your desk, but it’s good to see some general competition for Wacom.
Adobe Generator for Photoshop CC was one of the most impressive new software features Paul introduced. This allows Photoshop layers to be exported as individual image files, removing the need to ‘slice and dice’ layouts to prepare graphics for web or app. It also automatically generates updated image files as changes are made to the original Photoshop document. You can see the process for yourself in the video Paul made: ‘Generate Web Assets from Photoshop‘. The video also demonstrates the new integration with Adobe Edge Reflow for automatic generation of CSS.
Fittingly, for a conference which was known as ‘Flash on the Beach’, Paul also showed some of the new features in Flash. The most important of which are the new publishing formats: HTML5 Canvas, SVG & WebGL. Everyone accepts that the SWF format is dead, but Flash remains a nice tool for creating animation and interactivity. So it’s good to see it’s being given the capability to create content in modern web formats.
Kickstarting your Sketching and Visual Thinking skills
Eva-Lotta is a prominent proponent of sketching, for developing ideas and recording information. Her ‘Sketchnotes‘ books contain sketched notes on design conference presentations she has attended in since 2008. She also uses sketching extensively in her work, to develop and communicate ideas. Papers and pencils were distributed at the start of the session to encourage the audience to start sketching, and midway through Eva-Lotta initiated a simple drawing game to ensure we all participated.
Many people are uncomfortable with drawing (or more specifically what they perceive as their lack of drawing ability), but Eva-Lotta stressed that sketching and drawing are separate things. The former being solely about the recording/communicating of ideas and the latter about art and technical excellence. To encourage people’s confidence she demonstrated simple techniques for drawing objects from basic shapes; Ed Emberley’s ‘Make a World’ book was recommended as a good guide to drawing everything from people, to animals and many inanimate objects, such as cars and buildings.
Practicing sketching was identified as important to building confidence and skill in sketching. To that end Eva-Lotta takes regular ‘doodlebreaks‘ and uses a random sentence generator built for her by a friend to provide inspiration.
Here are some of Eva-Lotta’s sketchnotes from Reasons to be Creative 2013:
NB I think everyone who draws has favoured pens and pencils, so it’s interesting to see Eva-Lotta’s preferred tools.
Going to War Over UX
Evgenia’s presentation focused on conflict in the design process, with colleagues from different disciplines, clients and users. She identified that many of these conflicts emanate from a lack of empathy for the other person. A personal story of Evgenia’s experience of growing up in Israel and taking part in the ‘Seeds of Peace‘ project was used to show the difference empathy can make. ‘Seeds of Peace’ brings together Jewish and Muslim children from Israel and Palestine. Trust exercises are used to break down barriers and help the children see each other as people and to empathise with their situations.
In order to build empathy the importance of communication was stressed: meeting face-to-face, talking, listening, watching and demonstrating problems. It was observed that too often user research is done by one person/team, then handed off to designers and developers in the form of a report. This lead to user experience issues being over-looked and vital information being lost. The answer given to this problem was too involve the whole team, including decision makers, in the user experience research (where possible/practical).
I completely agree with Evgenia on the benefits of gaining user experience information first hand. At the moment I’m working on an iBook with an academic. While showing him an early iteration it became clear that an interaction I had planned (which seemed elegant when conceived) was confusing, requiring explanation by me. Subsequently, I completely redesigned the interaction making it clearer, simpler and better.
I’d highly recommend taking the chance to watch one of Evgenia’s presentations if she’s speaking near you (this was the second time I’ve seen her). Her talks always focus on the importance of the human aspects of design and development. Too often people get carried away with the technology, and forget that it is humans who they’re designing for.
Further reading from the talk:
Design and Happiness
For the first of the evening ‘Inspired Sessions’ Stefan Sagmeister talked about The Happy Show his exhibition about happiness at the Chicago Cultural Center. Stefan spoke about his efforts to find happiness from mediating in South East Asia, through cognitive behavioural therapy to psychoactive drugs (both legal prescription anti-depressants and illegal stimulants). Given that Stefan has previously carved into his own body in service of his work, it’s no surprise that would put his body in harm’s way for this project. All of these experiences have been distilled into a series of interactive exhibits for the exhibition and a film of the process.
The highlight of the session was the point where he cajoled the whole audience to sing a song slagging off clients, which also included derogatory lyrics about Stefan himself. Thanks to Simon Gordon Edwards for the recording.