Reynolds 5 Steps To Thinking Like A Designer

If you are familiar with the Presentation Zen blog and book you probably recognize the name Garr Reynolds. I don’t have the name of the presentation, but I recently watched a video of Reynolds giving a presentation in Sweden. At first I was just interested in an opportunity to watch Reynolds give a presentation. I wanted to take note of his slides (which are excellent) and his presentation style (also quite good). But I found this particular presentation communicated some good ideas about design.

After spending some time speaking about Japan and general principles of presenting, Reynolds focuses on “thinking like a designer”, and offers 5 tips (although in the presentation he mentions 9 tips but only gets to five of them) – and the five make watching this video worthwhile. Here they are:

1. It’s not about the tools. You can have amazing technology tools for developing presentations, but ultimately it is about your ideas not the tools

2. Start in analog mode – Reynolds suggests we all take time away from our computers when planning our presentations. Instead of immediately jumping on the keyboard, consider doing some scripting or sketching as your first approach. I tend to agree with this suggestion. I often start planning out my presentation on a tablet that I use to script out the talk. I use this approach to brainstorm what methods I want to use, such as storytelling, images, text or video, and where and how they’ll contribute to the presentation. Reynolds shares a sketch book that is a series of open squares. Into each one he can place ideas, sketched images or the text that will eventually make up the presentation.

3. Take a risk – “In the beginner’s mind there are only possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few”. Reynolds reminds us that as children we were much more likely to experiment and try new things. We weren’t afraid to fail. He suggests we be more childlike in our approach to presentations as it may lead us to try new things. I’ve been adding some hand drawn illustrations to my presentations; just stick figures. But attendees rarely expect this sort of thing and it captures their attention. It’s always a bit of a risk though. I never know if they’ll get the message across effectively or how the attendees will respond.

4. Put yourself in their shoes – This is a basic principle of nearly all fields of design, and is a hallmark of the design thinking process where before you even begin trying to develop a solution you identify the problem by putting yourself in the place of the user and examine your services from their perspective.

5. Embrace simplicity – You hear everyone talking about making things more simple but on this point Reynolds shared the following “Shinpuru ni suru koto wa” – Japanese for “an act of simpleness is not simple to do” (that’s according to Reynolds who has been working in Japan on and off for 20 years – there are quite a few references to Japan in the presentation). Reynolds lays out some ideas for trying to achieve simplicity.

I recommend that you watch the video and you’ll probably get more than these five tips. For example, a sixth tip could be to “deliver a sticky message”. It’s not too hard to find a video presentation by Garr Reynolds but for those interested in thinking more like a designer for their next presentation this will be time well spent.

Deep Dive, Maya Design And Librarian-UX Connections

When I want to share and explain the concepts of design thinking with an audience of librarians I often make use of the video “The Deep Dive.” It was originally an episode of Nightline shown in 1991, and it profiles the firm IDEO. In the program the IDEO folks are charged with redesigning a supermarket shopping cart. Watching the IDEO folks, an eclectic mix of professionals, go through the process illustrates the basic concepts of design thinking in very practical ways. I’ve owned the DVD that I bought from ABC for a few years. But now, thanks to someone who put event online (paying no attention to the FBI warnings about copying the video) you can watch the entire Deep Dive on YouTube. If you haven’t seen it, spend 22 minutes watching it (in three parts) before it is taken down.

IDEO is a firm highly associated with design thinking, but there are other design firms that use this technique as well. One is Adaptive Path, and I recommend you follow their blog. A lesser known firm is Maya Design, but they’ve done some interesting work, particularly their re-design of the interior of the Carnegie Public Library. We featured a designer from Maya on a Blended Librarians Online Community webcast a few years ago. I recently noticed an article about Maya Design in the latest issue of Fast Company that discusses their 3-day design boot camps. Seems they are now teaching others to become design thinkers. Sounds like a program I’d really like to attend.

What also caught my attention this past week was the announcement of two UX-related resources in the library community. One of my favorite events at any ALA conference is the Friday afternoon OCLC Symposium. This year the main speaker is Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D, (The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary) who will “engage the audience in a conversation that explores ways to bring a unique customer experience to the library.” I’m already registered and will hear what Michelli has to say about Starbuck’s recent challenges and the resiliance of the user experience in a recession. But just the fact that OCLC is turning its attention to UX is interesting to me.

I also came across a slideshow from a presentation by John Blyberg, Darien Library’s Assistant Director for Innovation and User Experience, on the topic of user experience design in libraries. If Blyberg is discussing UX in his conference presentations that will help to get more librarians interested in these ideas.

Who is in charge of the atmosphere?

I happened upon The Royal Oak, a quaint bar nestled beside a Starbucks and a movie theatre in the suburbs of Atlanta

The food was just ok, but the thing that struck me was this statement on their menu:

“A pub is a state of mind, and that alone sets it apart from any other drinking or eating establishment. It is a place where relaxation, stimulation, and conversation are the order of the day.  In their ‘local,’ as the English refer to them, a sense of being ‘at home’ is very much in evidence, and it is the publican’s job to ensure the maintenance of that atmosphere.”

This got me thinking about libraries. What is our state of mind? What is our atmosphere? Who is in charge of it? And perhaps the question for this blog: who designs it?

Is it the building manager’s job to create engaging experiences? What about the Head of Public Services? She might have good intentions but probably does not have the time to devote to such a large enterprise. So what about the librarians or staff? Again, there may be some interest, but “library as place” most likely ends up other duties as assigned.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot coming into a new workplace. I  walk throughout the building several times each day observing how patrons are using the space and how they have adapted to it. The library seems to have it’s own unwritten code of conduct. For example, there are many large tables on different floors. All of them are filled with students (finals week)—some of these are quiet zones, while in other areas people converse freely. Why is that? How was this ecosystem formed and how has it evolved over time? I have not noticed any library staff enforcing rules, so who is in charge?

I’ve started sketching layouts of the building with ideas for creating defined zones. Will simply rearranging the furniture have a positive (and noticeable) impact on study behavior? Will patrons accept what I design or simply do whatever the want?

 I don’t have any answers… just tons of questions, but think about the “atmosphere” of your library.  Who is in charge of it?What needs to be done?  And what can you do to change it?

UX: Strategy, Flow & Affordance

Were you aware that visitors to your library web site formulate their impressions of your site in the first 50 milliseconds of their visit. For those of us less familiar with the metric system that’s 0.05 seconds. In other words – very, very fast. Chances are it doesn’t take them much longer to react to your library or its services the first time. That first impression creates a halo effect, a cognitive bias where one’s thoughts are fueled by past impressions. That is why creating a good user experience is critical for your web site and library.

The role design plays in the user experience is the subject of a new article titled “Is Design the Preeminent Protagonist in User Experience?” Authored by Phillip Tobias and Daniel Spiegel, both of Kutztown University, in the online journal Ubiquity this article begins by exploring different definitions of user experience. The authors conclude that UX does not have a universally accepted definition. But defining UX is not the focus of their article; connecting design to UX is. They write:

There can be no doubt that one factor contributing to UX is design. By leveraging design an experience can become more engaging, invoking a much grander experience and positively influencing the user’s mental model.

The bulk of the article is devoted to three components of UX; strategy, flow and affordance. Strategy is mostly what you’d expect – devising plans and methods for achieving the desired outcome. The goal of a strategic redesign should be to capture the user’s attention, and begin to shape their conceptual model of the site or library.

For me the two new concepts in this article are flow and affordance. I can’t recall encountering them previously. Flow relates to how effectively the design takes the user through the system or experience. The authors liken it to reading a good book; if it’s well written you become completely engrossed and don’t even notice time passing. A design with good flow creates an experience that is painless even when it involves complexity. That sounds like the type of experience that would make a library better, but it’s elusive. They write “to get this experience, or flow, there needs to be some form of design, where the position of the elements constructs the optimal user experience.”

Affordance relates to the elements of an object’s design that contribute to a user’s interaction with it. On a web site affordance suggests the functionality of a button or feature in a way that meshes with a users expectations for that element. In the article a keyless remote device is offered as an example of design that effortlessly conveys what its purpose is. If you encounter a new car, perhaps a rental vehicle, you need no instructions for the keyless remote. The placement of buttons and symbols are the affordances that make it all clear.

In speaking to library colleagues about user experience I try to make the point that good UX is the result of a design process. That requires us to think carefully and purposefully about the UX we create for our community. Tobias and Spiegel reinforce this in their article when they emphasize that design directly affects user experience. If we want to make a good first impression on our users and influence their mental model we need to let design drive the user experience.