We Analyzed Every SXSW Design Session Proposal. Here’s What We Found.

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South by Southwest is the granddaddy of all conferences. With over 300,000 people descending on Austin, Texas every year and talks from design superstars like Bruce Mau and Elon Musk, it’s an incredible way to see what ideas are important within the design community. After attending the event for the first time this past year, we left with one goal: to one day get up on stage and spread our own ideas.

Google’s Got a Gambling Problem

Last year, I made a momentous decision. After 12 beautiful years, I broke up with Apple. Alright, it wasn’t a real breakup, I’m still typing this on my iPad, but I did I make the switch from the iPhone to the Google Pixel 2. And… (drum roll) … it was a great choice! The camera is stunning, I never run out of battery, and I don’t have to have any more extremely frustrating “conversations” with Siri.

But this article isn’t about which phone is the best (because lord knows we’ve got too many of those already). This article is about Google’s ecosystem – something that I wanted to learn more about by making the switch.

Twins.pngEmail Twins, Messaging Twins, Video Chat Twins, and Music Twins

Since moving to Google’s world, I’ve noticed something that seems to hide in plain sight: Google has two (or more) versions for a lot of their apps. Just took a look at all of the choices you have today:

5 Dangerous Words – “Hey, Can You Help Me?”

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A Typical Day at the Office

  • 8:43am: Arrive at work.
  • 8:47am: Continue working on a prototype for a new feature.
  • 9:09am: I’m stuck. I ask a coworker for some quick feedback.
  • 9:51am: A tap on the shoulder. It’s a developer with a question on the feature he’s working on. I help him.
  • 10:06am: Present my designs to a group of team members. They make some great suggestions.
  • 10:45am: Stuck again. This time, it’s a question about Photoshop. I slack another designer. He answers.
  • 11:02am: An email from an account manager comes in with a new feature request. I respond.
  • 11:11am: My phone buzzes. It’s a slack from our lead tester. I head over to make sure everything’s pixel perfect.
  • 11:29am: Ready for a new design challenge, I meet with the product team. We discuss requirements.
  • 11:51am: I slack an account manager to set up an interview.
  • 12:07pm: Lunch.

If you’re keeping track at home, it’s only noon and I’ve already gotten help or given help to someone a total of 8 times. Joe Cocker’s “I get by with a little help from my friends” song might as well be playing in my headphones all day. And that’s how it should be at a collaborative organization.

Asking for help is something that happens every day. No matter what your role is, there’s always going to be something you need help with; and for people in the business of creating new things, this occurs a lot. We’re constantly searching for answers to questions that have never been asked and we tend to use tools that are ever-evolving and overly complicated (looking at you, Adobe).

On the surface, asking for help seems harmless. But lurking behind the scenes is a dangerous productivity killer. According to experiments conducted by David Meyer, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Michigan, “mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.” That’s 16 hours per person per week!

The Biggest Problem with Agile Design (and how to fix it)

The Director and the Jedi.pngPhoto by Daniel Benavides via Flickr CC

I recently had the chance to watch The Director and the Jedi, an extraordinary documentary about the making of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and one thing was very clear from the film: Director Rian Johnson deserves a standing ovation.

While there might be some of you out there that feel like the film didn’t live up to the holy standards of The Empire Strikes Back (because it didn’t), it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t a successful movie. (It’s the 10th highest grossing film of all time for crying out loud.) So putting aside criticisms of the film itself, Rian Johnson deserves a round of applause because of the sheer amount of effort that is required to pull off a film like Star Wars.

How Successful Innovators Design for Confrontation

As designers, innovators, and entrepreneurs, our mission is always to make people’s lives easier. Every workflow we design is aimed at reducing the amount of cognitive load our users’ experience, and every product we create is pitched the same way – “Hey the way you’re currently doing things is painful; here’s an easier way!” So when Steve Selzer, a Designer Manager at Airbnb, gave a talk suggesting that ‘making things easier’ isn’t always a good idea, I did a double take.

What the Biggest Marketing Stunt of 2018 Means for the Future of Design

Poker Table At SXSW.png Me – living the dream – playing poker in the Westworld “Park” at SXSW

Despite the fact that I attended South by Southwest for the talks on design and innovation, and despite the fact that (most of) those talks were truly amazing, when I returned home, the thing that I couldn’t wait to share with everyone was actually an immersive marketing experience for the popular HBO show, Westworld. And yes, after telling some friends and family this story they all thought that the conference didn’t have anything to do my job and that it was just one crazy party; but after giving it some thought, this marketing stunt might just have the biggest impact on my role as a designer.

To be an Innovation Legend, do you have to be an A**hole?

Elon on Stage My View of Musk As the Crowd Goes Crazy at SXSW 2018

If you’ve ever been to the SXSW Conference, you know it’s full of many surprises. This year none was bigger than the announcement that Elon Musk would be speaking. As soon as the email went out, I knew I would wake up as early as I had to in order to get tickets to see him talk. It didn’t matter if it meant waiting in line for hours or that I would miss the Melinda Gates’s keynote (that was poorly scheduled right after his). And I wasn’t the only one that felt this way.

The Evolution of Elon Musk: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Elon Musk2Photo by Web Summit via Flickr CC

As someone who considers themselves up-to-date with the latest news and trends on everything design and innovation, I was taken aback when I saw a Facebook post back in December. My friend was calling out Elon Musk for being a jerk (and no it wasn’t one of the those Facebook friends that rants about everything). He was referring to a Twitter battle between Musk and Jarrett Walker, a public transit policy consultant with a PhD in humanities.  

Their Twitter feud began because of Elon’s comments at an AI Conference. Musk had called out public transportation for being a “pain in the ass” and that you could end up sharing a ride with someone “who might be a serial killer.” This led to a series of tweets by Walker aimed at Musk, saying that Musk wanted to create a public transportation system designed for the protection of the elite. To which Musk simply responded, “You’re an idiot.”

Why Innovators Need to Become Chief Communication Officers (Part 2)

The innovation process requires a lot of communication. It begins by discussing the problem, then talking through potential solutions, followed by clearly articulating how to implement the selected solution, and finally it involves telling (and selling) the innovation’s story. These different stages of communication involve not just the core design team but also every department of the organization (oh yeah, and the people we’re designing for as well). Because of this, designers and innovators need to be elite communicators. We have to think of ourselves as the Chief Communication Officers (CCO) of our organizations.