Reasons to be Creative 2012 round-up: Tuesday

Christian Heilmann

That web thing

Why the fuck do you ask IE6 to animate stuff? Stop pestering the elderly with Javascript.

Write code as if the next developer to use it is an axe wielding maniac who knows where you live.

You get no respect for doing quick, dirty fixes. Respect comes from craft.

Christian kicked off day two of  ‘Reasons to be Creative’ with a highly entertaining and very quotable presentation. One of his main themes was that it is down to us as designers and developers to improve the web. He offered ways that we could do this, starting with treating what we do as craft and rejecting quick fixes. Filing bug reports to browser vendors, with explanations, screenshots and demonstrations of the problems helps too (taking to Twitter to whinge about problems doesn’t). He also encouraged us not to stop at bug fixes, but to suggest ideas to improve the user experience of browsers and the web; with the caveat that our ideas need to be thought through, with use cases, explanations and, if possible, demonstrations if we want them to be taken seriously.

He also had sensible advice for the deployment of technology: if a user experience can’t be delivered reliably across all browsers, then choose a technology that supports the experience, such as Flash.

We were also provided with some interesting statistics from Mozilla. For example, the average time for ‘Private Browsing’ in Firefox is five minutes; I think we can all advance a very plausible explanation for this. Another was the man who had ‘63,000 tabs open in Firefox’. As somebody who often has too many tabs open in Firefox I was quite relieved to know there are far worse offenders than me out there!

The final point to take away from Christian’s presentation was his assertion that “people believe that we do magic, so let’s do magic”.


Keynote slides:

Screen cast recorded pre-event:

Christian’s blog post about speaking at ‘Reasons to be Creative’:

Christian gave another entertaining Ubelly Soapbox presentation at lunch, this time on the subject of starting out as a public speaker. The slides, transcript and screencast are all available online:


Evgenia (Jenny) Grinblo

The Practice of Empathy

Empathy makes us advocates for people.

People are stupid, have bad memories, make up opinions, are irrational, bad at future predicting.

The user is not the designer.

Evgenia gave a very popular session on the importance of empathy for creating great user experiences. She explained how she uses qualitative (as opposed to quantitative) research to develop this empathy. Talking to people is critical to this, but even more important is listening to them, and then seeing things from their point of view. Evgenia related her own (very) personal experiences to her practice, demonstrating how she felt when others had shown empathy towards her – she felt her situation had been understood and that this had aided her greatly.

She provided perspective too though, pointing out that user research was not useful, or a subsitute, for idea generation. This needs to come first, in order to provide direction to any user interviews undertaken.

Suggested reading:

UX Team of One‘ by Leah Buley (due for publication in late 2012) about quick & dirty usability testing

Suggested website for usability testing:  Belen Barros

Presentation slides:


Empathy maps were mentioned by Evgenia during her presentation, Johanna Kollmann (@johannakoll) subsequently tweeted a couple of resources:
Book: Gamestorming by @davegray


Bjarke Myrthu

The Future of Digital Content

The first part of Bjarke’s session focused on digital story telling, through the juxtaposition of text, images, videos and audio. In particular, we were shown digital efforts to re-create the compelling reportage often found in the weekend magazines of broadsheet newspapers or more upmarket general interest magazines. Bjarke then explained how digital storytelling struggles with identity and personality, which traditional (linear) storytelling is great at. He also explained the problems for digital storytellers in getting published. Traditional storytelling has established platforms: newspapers, magazines, books, television with access controlled by the publishers of these media. The lack of a good publishing platform for though has held back digital storytelling, so Bjarke has built his own platform – StoryPlanet.

StoryPlanet has it’s own custom editor for the platform. This is intended to save writers and photographers (key members of the target audience) from having to learn web technologies; a significant barrier for many apparently. Instead they will be freed to concentrate on telling their stories.

The StoryPlanet editor and player are both built in Flash, though a HTML5 player is in the pipeline. When asked about a HTML5 editor, Bjarke replied, that due to the complexity of the editor and the need for a good user experience, that this would be unlikely to happen. Instead, he suggested that native apps for the editor would be a more sensible strategy for supporting mobile devices.

I can see how StoryPlanet could be a very useful tool for educators looking to put together case stories, though design guidance will be essential. StoryPlanet’s themes, and the ability to develop your own à la WordPress, will be crucial to this.


Mike Jones

Designing Game Interfaces

Mike gave an entertaining, and times quite academic, look at the history and design of game interfaces. He traced the evolution of game interfaces through games such as Pong, StarCraft, Tony Hawkes and World of Warcraft. Along the way he introduced us to, and explained, (non-)diegetic and (non-)spatial interfaces.

In addition to the academic theory Mike also gave plenty of practical advice, providing examples to illustrate his point. The need for game UI to be unobtrusive and not require exposition was made clear. As was making the location of it dependent on the focus of the user and to keep it out of the way. A good example of this was Mike’s demonstration of the pitfalls of onscreen joysticks in games on touch-screen devices. Games employing this control method need to keep the ‘sweet-spot’ of game interaction central to the screen. The joysticks need to be kept away from this area, lest the thumbs obscure the interaction. In my experience, MiniGore for iOS is an example of a game that gets this right.

Mike gave an interesting example of the use of colour in game UI in the snowboarding game ‘SSX’. He showed us how a limited colour palette (basically red and blue) could be used to convey lots of information the user. Crucially, all this information was provided in an unobtrusive manner.

We were also shown how tap and drag UIs worked well on touch-screen devices; ‘Plants vs Zombies’ was shown as an exemplar. However, Mike also demonstrated how they also posed problems on smaller touch screens (such as phones), where the lack of screen estate made the interactions more difficult.
A problem area that Mike identified as being largely un-addressed in game UIs is accessibility; too often colour and contrast issues are not considered for those with visual impairments.

Suggested reading

User Interface Design in Video Games — Anthony Stonehouse

Beyond the HUD UI for Increased Player Immersion in FPS Games (PDF)

Replay: The History of Video Games – Tristan Donovan via tweet from Ian Hamilton (‏@ianhamilton_)


Lernert & Sander

Lernert & Sander all the way in Brighton

Dutch duo Lernert and Sander entertained the afternoon crowd with their excellent videos. These are the cream of the crop:

CDEFGABC video, made for MTV. Sadly, a lot of people don’t believe that Lennert & Sander actually played the Glass Harp for MTV because it’s film. They assume it’s a post production trick.

Natural Beauty‘ (by the way, this is *not* a make-up tutorial!)


Chocolate Bunny


Yves Peters

Two Decades of Trajan in Movie Posters

Yves gave an entertaining and illuminating talk on the rise of the Trajan font in movie posters (and more recently Gotham). He charted it’s rise since release in 1988 showing how, at various points, its use by a successful film or distribution change had caused its usage to shoot up. What was particularly interesting was how what the font represented had changed. We tend to think of fonts as having a character that makes them formal/in-formal, modern/old, serious/frivolous. Yet Trajan has been used on posters for a wide variety of films, in genres as diverse as period drama, romantic comedy, horror and ‘overcoming the odds’. It’s also seen as the font for Oscar winning movies, though without any hard evidence to support this. A similar process is happening to Gotham.

We also treated to an entertaining run through of official vs fan poster art and through movie poster clichés, ending with an excellent spoof from Funny or Die.


Movie poster series on FontFeed