Posts tagged “tools”

This Week @ Portigal

We all survived Friday the 13th last week and are ready to take on another week that certainly promises to end less ominously…

So, what’s happening this week at Portigal? Quite a bit…

  • We are up to our ears in interesting opportunities that require some creative thinking about participant engagement. Our research gears are turning!
  • Steve and Tamara will be giving a curtain-call presentation of findings from a recent study.
  • We continue to prepare for upcoming fieldwork (New York!! Los Angeles!!) and Julie is going to be busy making some tools to catalyze conversation.
  • Steve presses on with writing for his forthcoming book, synthesizing fabulous interviews with change agents who have driven the adoption of user research and pulling together the great suggestions people contributed to Tips to Improve Your Interviewing Skills (and a request for more!)
  • We are percolating some sweet ideas for primary research in 2012 for the Omni project and plan to share them soon. Stay tuned…
  • Steve continues to plug away on various tasks related to the upcoming Interaction 12 in Dublin.
  • We are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of Wednesday so we can get our geek on at Nerd Nite SF!
  • Steve is meeting with a big Silicon Valley player to explore how we can deliver design research training to their teams.
  • We continue to search for (and find!) cool opportunities for learning, teaching, and sharing. Julie and Tamara are currently in the throes of submitting proposals for Agile2012 and a few other gigs…
  • Tamara continues to dive deep into the eye-candy-land of visual thinking, doodling, mind mapping, graphic facilitation, etc. and welcomes suggestions for articles, websites, examples or groups of local SFists who like to get together with colored markers, blank paper, and ideas.

Merry Monday and Happy Week to you!

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Shit Painted Gold – [Post-modern detachedly-ironic consumerism makes the brain work hard. We'll tell you these products are crap and that we've not added any value by changing the color, but we have transformed them nonetheless. So, we hope you'll be happy to pay a bit extra for them. Now, please exit through the gift shop.] Nothing looks fancier in your home, office or garbage than shit painted gold. these amazing one of a kind art pieces will legitimize your ability to say to people, "why yes, that shit IS gold" [Thanks, Jeannie Choe!]
  • [from julienorvaisas] What comes after One Day for Design? [AIGA] – [Along with many others, we participated and commented on the 1D4D experience. AIGA hints that they are analyzing conversations and data gathered that day to guide their very reinvention. Stay tuned…] On April 13, we reached out through the existing networks of several prolific tweeters who led exchanges on the future of design, the concerns of today’s designers and the opportunities for design communities…Together with our partners in this project, the independent branding collective VSA Partners, we are now synthesizing the comments and discussions generated through this event. We will share the results here as we summarize them and develop ways for AIGA to respond. In June, our national board and chapter leaders will review all of this research from the past year—including the results from “One Day”—and work with us to outline the next steps. This is the year that AIGA will pivot toward new forms of serving the profession and its members.
  • [from steve_portigal] Pink Tools for Women: Learn today, Teach tomorrow, Build forever. – [Had this one sitting around forever. Love the message of empowerment; I'm willing to buy the pink-as-brand and NOT pink-as-shallow-way-of-feminizing-design but what else are they doing (besides Tupperware business model) to make these products specifically for women?] Founded by three women deeply entrenched in do-it-yourself projects, Tomboy Tools was launched in 2000 as the dream-turned-reality of being able to provide women with hands-on education, high quality tools and a fun way to make a living from home. Our Mission Statement: To build confidence and empower women through education, quality tools and an independent business opportunity. Today, while our mission statement rings as true as ever, our slogan is shorter and more concise. Our slogan underscores the power of Tomboy Tools in the marketplace and the value we provide both to female customers seeking hands-on education with high quality tools and Home Consultants looking for a great career.
  • [from steve_portigal] Conversations With Bert: Andy Samberg [YouTube] – [As a fellow introvert, I recognize Bert's slight shift into a more deliberate and mannered "interview mode." While he's not quite Terry Gross (and has a way to go to do the type of interviewing that we do), this short clip is a good source for a number of interviewing techniques, mixing equally between "what to do" and "what not to do." I'll have to use this in my next workshop and ask people to make note of the ways that Bert is successful or unsuccessful as he asks open-ended questions, reveals his own perspectives, redirects the conversation, feeds back, acknowledges what Andy says, and asks follow-ups.] Sesame Street's Bert sits down with comedian and Saturday Night Live cast member, Andy Samberg, to talk about life, literature, cuisine and of course, socks.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Memories destroyed in a flash [The Independent] – [Nice discussion of pros and cons, and implications of the broad transition to digital photos. This cultural shift will have huge implications generationally.] Spend a few minutes watching a Facebook feed and you quickly see it is not just our viewing experience that has changed. The way we store and display our pictures has radically altered the nature and type of photograph we take. A high proportion of photos on social networking sites tend to be posed self-portraits, the telltale arm holding the camera often hoving into view at the side. The breadth and scope of the pictures we display has decreased. We've moved away from Sontag's idea of photos as being accessories to our memories, towards photos as a brag – a way of telling the world what fun we're having, and how good we look having it. "You can guess it's taken for the benefit of an audience: It's not necessarily better or worse – just different. It was never so much the case with your personal album."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Seen Reading – a "literary voyeruism blog" set mostly (I believe) in Toronto – What is Seen Reading?

    1. I see you reading.
    2. I remember what page you’re on in the book.
    3. I head to the bookstore, and make a note of the text.
    4. I let my imagination rip.
    5. Readers become celebrities.
    6. People get giddy and buy more books.

    Why do you do this?
    Readers are cool. Authors work hard. Publishers take chances. And you all deserve to be seen!

    (Thanks Suzanne Long!)

  • Choose What You Read NY – Choose What You Read NY is a non profit organization that offers free books to New Yorkers, encouraging its residents to read more, giving them an alternative to the free papers that get tossed out and even the digi-trash that crowds our time. In doing so, we help to recycle used books that would have unfortunately been thrown away.

    You will find us near major subway stations on the first Tuesday of each month.The idea is that once someone is finished with a book, they either drop it off in one of our conveniently located drop boxes or back to us at a station. Unlike a library, there will be no due dates, penalties, fees or registrations. We only ask that you return it once you are done so that the same book can be enjoyed by another commuter.

  • What was the last book, magazine and newspaper you read on the subway? – 6000 people respond and the New York Times posts the results
  • How and what people read on the New York City subways – Plenty of detailed examples of people, their books, and their travels: "Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded newspaper, as well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read.

    There are those whose commutes are carefully timed to the length of a Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker, those who methodically page their way through the classics, and those who always carry a second trash novel in case they unexpectedly make it to the end of the first on a glacial F train."

    (thanks Avi and Anne)

  • Lego grabs ahold of customers with both hands – From 2006, great Wired piece about Lego's approach to involving ardent fans/customers in developing future products.
  • Noting:books – the simple yet dynamic way to track your reading, from the dates you start and finish a book, to your thoughts along the way.
  • CourseSmart brings textbooks to the iPhone in PDF; major readability challenges ensue – “It’s not the first place to go to read your textbook,” Mr. Lyman said of the iPhone app. But he said that it could be helpful if “you’re standing outside of the classroom, the quiz is in 10 minutes, and you want to go back to that end-of-chapter summary that helped you understand the material.”
  • Nice profile of Lego’s business culture and the tension between growth and losing track of their legacy – But the story of Lego’s renaissance — and its current expansion into new segments like virtual reality and video games — isn’t just a toy story. It’s also a reminder of how even the best brands can lose their luster but bounce back with a change in strategy and occasionally painful adaptation.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • BusinessWeek looks at how Steelcase went from user research data to insights to opportunities – "But most innovations depend on nontraditional research methods—ethnographic studies, customer-created collages, and so on—that can't easily be sliced and diced in Excel. That means synthesis can be one of the most challenging steps in the innovation process." This is an issue I'll be addressing in my upcoming workshop at EPIC 2009 "Moving from Data to Insights to Opportunities"
  • The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies – Not technically a museum (or even an Internet museum) as they've really just aggregated images that represent tools and ways of working that have or are in the process of obsoleting.

Duty now for the future

Artpiece made of clocks, Chicago MOMA

This list of 10 workplace skills of the future is going around the various ‘Scapes and ‘Spheres (it came to me on Twitter via Chris23). Without getting into whether the list is entirely correct or comprehensive, I think it’s incredibly thought-provoking.

For anyone involved in designing products–especially work environments and tools–it will be crucial to explore people’s daily lives and see what’s really happening: how these types of shifts are manifesting behaviorally and emotionally, and what new opportunities are being created as a result.

10 Workplace Skills of the Future
(From Bob Johansen’s book, Leaders Make the Future. Originally posted by Tessa Finlev in The Future Now blog.)

Ping Quotient
Excellent responsiveness to other people’s requests for engagement; strong propensity and ability to reach out to others in a network

Seeing a much bigger picture; thinking in terms of higher level systems, bigger networks, longer cycles

Open Authorship
Creating content for public modification; the ability to work with massively multiple contributors

Cooperation Radar
The ability to sense, almost intuitively, who would make the best collaborators on a particular task or mission

Fluency in working and trading simultaneously with different hybrid capitals, e.g., natural, intellectual, social, financial, virtual

The ability to do real-time work in very large groups; a talent for coordinating with many people simultaneously; extreme-scale collaboration

Fearless innovation in rapid, iterative cycles; the ability to lower the costs and increase the speed of failure

Knowing how to be persuasive and tell compelling stories in multiple social media spaces (each space requires a different persuasive strategy and technique)

Signal/Noise Management
Filtering meaningful info, patterns, and commonalities from the massively-multiple streams of data and advice


The ability to prepare for and handle surprising results and complexity that come with coordination, cooperation and collaboration on extreme scales

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Whitney Quesenbery's workshop on selecting user research methodologies (PDF) – This is definitely an FAQ and this paper gives some good frameworks for choosing. Best stuff starts on page 9.
  • A business will gain from 10 to 50% more customers using a air dancer inflatable puppet. – Drivers tune out the surrounding signs. They are focused on the road and ahead. If a driver was to read and look at each business on every block he or she drives by, they would simply have sensory overload. An air dancer placed within their field of vision, dancing and waving around with your message simply can not be tuned out.

    Only the best air dancer material (1.3 oz coated ripstop), artwork is cut and sewn with boat sail insignia material. We make them right here in our California facility. Unlike other units that last 6 weeks, our unit will last 6 months. Dancer warranty / 90 days and workmanship warranty / 6 months. Fan warranty is one year. The best dancing balloon warranty in the industry. We only use the 18” fan. Some companies use only a 12” fan.

    Including Air Dancer, Arrow Dancer, Fly Guy and 2 Leg Patented Dancing Man

  • Kaboom Advertising – Street Stunts – Whether it’s a huge gorilla chasing a banana through the streets of a major market or a giant smile running and hugging a donor at a major high-end fundraising gala, we create circumstances that attract the attention of the local market and publicity to fuel peer-to-peer recommendations. By inviting or leaking the event to the press, the brand is given a bit more credibility and prolonged exposure to the community at large.

Travelling at Home

I spent some time last week walking around the area near our office in Pacifica. It’s amazing how often, when you break your usual routine, you find something fascinating and unfamiliar right around the corner. In this case, a whole pier fishing subculture, with its own set of tools, infrastructure, workarounds . . .

(Cell phone pix, so forgive the lack of detail)

Fishing, Pacifica Pier

Fisherman with homemade cart and pinups

Fishing pole held in crack (price tag $11.96)

Catch and release measuring scale on lamppost

Design and Research had a baby and they called it . . .

Sketches for “Personal Greenhouse” ¬©2007 Dan Soltzberg

Debbie Millman and Mike Bainbridge have posted their article, Design Meets Research, over at Gain: AIGA Journal of Design & Business. The piece provides a quick overview of various tools in the research toolbox, calls out their particular strengths and drawbacks, and makes the point that picking the right tool for the job and using it well are paramount.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article and some of my thoughts in response:

There are a wide variety of research techniques that can have merit for designers. . . There is not, repeat not, one correct way to test design.

I see research very much as a generative tool as well as an evaluative one, and have started to question whether the concept of a border between research and design is really accurate or productive. At the front end of the design process, research is a way of surfacing opportunities and generating ideas. At later stages, it’s a way of refining and validating these ideas as they become concepts and prototypes. In this way, research is a design tool in the same way that drawing is a design tool, except that at the center of the mechanism is the customer/user.

When used correctly, research shouldn’t stifle creativity but rather offer designers stronger inspiration and focus.

By taking a facilitative, collaborative approach to working with companies and design teams, research and research findings can be integrated into the design process in ways that enhance rather than stifle creativity. Keeping the customer/user and their needs prominent throughout the design process needn’t be limiting–having clear goals and constraints ultimately makes a design problem more interesting and leads to better, more elegant solutions.

And better, more elegant solutions are, after all, the end game here.

Todd calls for “A new framework”

Todd writes, over at the adaptive path blog

Focusing exclusively on tasks and goals means that you tend to ignore or de-emphasize all of the activities that people engage in that are specifically not goal-oriented. It also means that you will often ignore the messy jumble of activities that take place around but are not oriented toward your system. This is not always problematic but it quickly becomes so when you are designing for multiple contexts and mediums. When it comes to designing for the total experience, the activities that have little to do with the system you are designing are often just as important as those that are central to it. More than ever before, people switch from one context to another rapidly and often. They were in the outskirts of Cleveland mowing their lawn then the cell phone rang and suddenly they’re planning a trip to Thailand.

The thesis of the piece, as I read it, is not simply to shift methodologies (do ethnography and forget usability) but to change the fundamental way that we structure and act on the information we gather about the people we are designing for.

It’s a great challenge for organizations, and for consultants, because there’s powerful cultural infrastructure that drives what is an acceptable piece of new knowledge, and of course, what isn’t. In order to see how you might act on something – what do we DO with this information – requires a shift in perspective. And those don’t happen overnight, when they do happen.


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